I caught two plays on the weekend…

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As totally different as they could possibly be…Read on!

The Butcher of Baraboo

Janet Chamberlain and Carl C. Johnson in” The Butcher of Baraboo.”

The innovative Road Theatre offers still another wildly unique production! A most unusual and deliciously entertaining story, written hilariously by Marisa Wegrzyn, we peer into the oddball lives of a colorfully kooky family in Baraboo, Wisconsin. We are privy to the happenings on the one year anniversary of the mysterious disappearance of Valerie’s husband. The press release teases us with this statement: “Set in the dead winter, we follow a tale of family secrets, a very big knife, and a whole lot of caffeine.” A local butcher who has always been suspected of “wrong doing” in the matter, Valerie has a huge meat cleaver perched in her kitchen… and nervously drinks coffee by the gallon. Janet Chamberlain is wonderfully whacky as Valerie. Her misfit 32 year old daughter Midge works as a pharmacist at Walgreens while selling drugs to the local high school students. (A compellingly creepy Nina Sallinen.) Valerie’s sister-in-law Gail, a local cop who has issues of her own, is a constant suspicious presence. (A ferociously funny Rebecca Jordan.) When Valerie’s brother-in-law Donal moves in next door with his pregnant wife Sevenly and their six kids… family skeletons fly out of the closet! (Excellently portrayed by Carl J. Johnson and Jenny Kern.) Director Mark St. Amant guides his cast of five with quirky perfection! No newcomer to darkly humorous storylines, he also directed the long running and brilliantly titillating The Bird and Mr. Banks here, starring the incomparable Sam Anderson. As usual with this troupe, the “behind the scenes” efforts were magical in setting the macabre tone. Artistic accolades to Jeff McLaughlin for a wonderful set, Mary Jane Miller for rustic cold-weather costumes, Dave Marling for sound, and Christie Wright for lighting. This is a loony, lively lark… loaded with freaky family dysfunction and a lot of hearty laughs! Running through December 11th at The Road Theatre. For seats, call (866) 811-4111 or go to www.roadtheatre.org.

“Fab” Footnote: Preceding the production on opening night, our popular L.A. city councilman Tom LaBonge took the stage. A friendly and likeable man, he was there to honor both Taylor Gilbert and The Road Theatre, with lovely framed Commendation Awards… for 20 years of theatrical dedication and excellence. Congrats to all involved. They deserve it!

Campaign

John F. Goff (l.), Cindy Marinangel and Brian Byers.

A political musical, taking place in a bustling campaign office, we follow the manic journey of gubernatorial candidate Glenn Mann. (A strongly slick performance by Brian Byers). A smooth talkin’, long married “Casanova,” adamantly preaching “family values” while rampantly cheating on his wife… we’re all familiar with this kind of politician! His opponent, Malcolm Buffington, is even sleazier than Mann, spending millions on his campaign, and leading in the polls at the moment. (A believably despicable John F. Goff.) While Mann’s “power hungry” wife stands by her man, (a funny Barbara Keegan), he is sleeping with Brenda, his pretty new press secretary (an impressive Jean Altadel) and being accused on the T.V. news of fathering another woman’s child. His campaign manager, trying to clean up the philandering Mann’s public image, is also heatedly verbally sparring with Brenda, his mistress. (A commendable Travis Dixon.) Notable, in smaller roles, are the sassy Josie Adams as the bubbly Gladys, and the skilled Max Middleton as Irv. The script was ambitiously written 15 years ago by Samuel Warren Joseph, who also penned the music and lyrics, with Jon Detherage… and T.J. Castronovo playfully wears the director’s hat. Sadly, for me, this potentially clever offering fell short of “inspiring” in numerous ways. The often rather outdated songs, lyrics and vocalists… run the gambit from powerful to mediocre, often giving a “community theatre” vibe to the overall impact. With a stronger cast of singers, rather than “actors who sing,” and a bit of revamping… this could be a powerhouse show. Byers, Altadel and Dixon are the most accomplished singers in the cast! My “fave” songs and performances include “What Does It All Mean,” “I Believe in You,” “Better Days,” and “Fool For Love.” The remainder of the well-intended cast is Stephanie Carrie, Cindy Mariangel, Jase Lindgren and Julianna Zumille. Although I did enjoy certain “spot-lit” moments and the satirical political theme presented… this play undeniably has its share of issues.

Running through November 7th at The Met Theatre – 1089 N. Oxford Ave. in Hollywood. For seats, call (323) 960-7612.

Back next week with a review of “Love and Other Allergies,” opening at The Lounge Theatre. Every other waking moment will find me drowning in a sea of Halloween costumes at my shop, Hubba Hubba! ‘Tis the season…

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